Sunday, August 24, 2008


Here is a picture of an August harvest. Corn, pole beans, zucchini, a pepper, beets, ripe tomatoes and a lot of green tomatoes. We had some heavy rain and all my tomato plants fell over. In staking them up, I ended up harvesting a goodly number of green tomatoes.

Also, see my clipboard reminding me all I have to do, a timer to keep track of how long things take and my seed planting device. I've got winter items in the ground.

Clothesline Part 2

I've really enjoyed my big clothesline this summer and want to continue line-drying my laundry. But the rains are coming and my weekend schedules are becoming busy again, so I know doing a week of laundry on Sunday is not feasible. Luckily, I have a covered back porch in which I can continue to dry my laundry. I bought this little clothesline for only $14.00.
The clothesline stretched across the porch.
And, voila! Clothes drying safe from the rain. Though not the damp. It will take much longer to dry in the damp then it did in August.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Incredibly Hot Day

"Hey, it's going to be 100 degrees on Friday, what do you want to do?"
"I know! Let's get a Zipcar truck for the day and do lots of manual labor and running around!"
"Sounds great!"

We didn't actually have that conversation, Matt and I, but that's what we did. To be fair, I didn't know when I reserved the truck that our work day would fall during the hottest days of the year. But it was the last Friday of my vacation, thus the last Friday of my real summer and the truck was reserved and so the work had to be done. Matt was a champ about it.
Just for fun, I started the day by jogging three miles to pick up the truck. I picked it up at 8:00, so I would have a few hours to run around before Matt and I started in on the heavy lifting.
My philosophy for renting a Zipcar is to be in constant motion. Because the cars rent by the hour or day and you don't have to pay gas, the best value for the Zipcar is to just keep moving. I plotted a circular route that would get me to all the driving places I've been needing to go.
First stop: Goodwill. My donations look paltry in the bin, but they were taking up a lot of space by the door.
At Portland Recycling center I recycled all the plastic the curbside recycling doesn't take.
On to the Metro Paint where I bought a screen for a compost bin.
At the Metro Hazardous Waste Facility I recycled my hazardous waste: a 5 gallon bucket of "waste paint" left over by the builders and a jar of dead batteries.
The next stop was Linnton Feed & Seed where I forgot to take a picture, but where I bought ingredients for fertilizer, 2 bales of straw and also a dozen fresh eggs. I returned home, and Matt and I unloaded. I left Matt strewing the hay about the backyard while I went to the City of Portland's Sunderland Recycling Center to buy dirt. I bought a 50/50 blend of compost and dirt for the low price of $12.00 per cubic yard.

Here is the yard.
I've lined my truck up so the loader can fill it.
And here the loader carefully dumps the dirt into the truck bed.
Back at home, Matt has put down the straw, both in our yard and Leo's. We are getting rid of some of our grass and expanding the garden.
We emptied the compost bins in the yard, spread the half finished compost over the straw and moved three of the four bins to the side of the house.
Our empty bins.
Next we laid down cardboard over the straw.
Also in Leo's yard.
More of Leo's yard. I'm determined to take over from the weeds which are still a battle.
This is half a cubic yard of dirt ready to be moved. Did I mention it is about 100 degrees right now?
We covered the straw/cardboard with the dirt. We also filled the herb bed out front. It took three truckloads. After finishing that and cleaning out the truck bed, we drove to Washington County so Matt could return a library book and then stopped at Dairy Queen for blizzards. After that, I dropped Matt off and drove to Lowe's, bought some hoses and watering devices as well as some rebar. Then I stopped at the Multnomah County library to drop off my books. After that I drove to school, to pick up my bike rack which I left there because of the Hottest Day of the Year Ride. My last stop was Fred Meyer to buy something to hold the hoses I bought. I returned home at 9 p.m. The truck had been in use 13 hours, which I consider getting my money's worth. The fee divided by hours in use came to about $6.00 per hour. I returned it by 8 a.m. the next morning and took the bus back home. Whew!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Herb Garden Bed

This front space of open ground has been calling out for a nice bed of herbs since we moved in. With a herb bed out front, I can lean over the porch to get what I need to complete the meal I'm cooking. Building a bed for the space was one of two goals I set for my two weeks off of work.
I was particularly excited to get rid of these spiky plants which came with the house and which I never liked. Last year, I dispatched one and planted an evergreen huckleberry. The huckleberry has not thrived in that spot and I decided it was time to move it to the side of the house. It doesn't like direct sun.
A close-up of the spiky plant. It is surrounded by pansies which came with the house and which I wasn't opposed to, per se. I became impressed with their survival. I did nothing to them for more than a year and they were still growing. However, my commitment to edible plants and a kitchen herb garden means the pansy must go. (And yes, I know they can be eaten. )
To construct the box, I bought cedar fence boards. I wanted cedar, because it lasts a long time in the rain. I did not want to pay for 2X4's, or god forbid, 2X8's of cedar because that would price the garden bed out of my range. Cedar fencing is about 2 dollars per six foot length and was the affordable, if less solid, option. I also bought one piece of square cedar (I think that is a 2X2, but I'm not sure). The whole cost of the lumber was around $30.00. I also paid Chris $10.00 for gas money to drive over and help with the construction. Chris also brings tools, so $10.00 is a bargain.
The bed is almost 12 feet wide. Given that our fencing was not 12 feet wide, we had to join two pieces of wood together in the middle. This photo shows (not well) the simple joint we made to attach the two sides together.
Here are the holes we drilled. As usual, we bought screws that were too short. (We may have some sort of faulty gene that causes us to underestimate proper fastener length every time.) So we had to countersink the holes again. Also, I mis-figured when measuring for the screw holes, so we ended up with two sets of holes. Ah, do-it-yourself, you are a living math problem.
Here's a picture of half of the box complete. I like drawing up plans for projects and implementing them. What makes total sense in my mind tends to need a bit more thought once starting. For instance, how should we best join the sides? Should we attach the front halves first and then the sides? Or should we make each half, and then bring them together in the middle? Working with another person on projects is also good because I'm forced to explain what I mean and answer questions about the process. This helps avoid mistakes.
Bringing together the two sides.

The finished product. Or is it?
We got to looking at the corners and decided they needed a triangle to cover them. So we cut two and attached them with nails.
A close-up of the corner. There was some talk of building a ledge along the top, but that would have required another trip to the store, more time, etc. So we left it. I rather like the result.

Overall, this was a great project. Planning and building probably took 4 hours of my time (and Chris' time) and $45.00 max. Yet it gave me 36 square feet in which to plant herbs for my cooking.

(Note: I can't tell you how many people of a certain age thought I was talking about something else when I was describing my herb bed. For the record, I am talking parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. What Simon and Garfunkel sang about, not smoked.)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


I know about growing zucchini. I know that one plant can easily get out of control and supply you with enough zucchini to feed an army unit. I know that my friend Kelly wisely advised her coworker to rip out seven of the eight zucchini plants she had planted. But I grew it anyway. I was after small sized zucchini, the kind you have to dig through all the medium ones in the store to find. I figured in my back yard I could easily spot check the plant daily and pick them when they were slim, cylindrical bites of goodness.

But my plant was a surprise from the beginning. The leaves were variegated, and I wasn't sure if that was okay, or if there was something wrong with the soil. Then the zucchini started coming and, instead of nice, small cylinders, I had tennis ball sized spheres. (Note: sphere is my favorite word to say.) My first thought was that as they grew, they would straighten out. I let them grow, so they could grow into the cylinders I wanted. That was a mistake.
When I didn't watch them carefully, they turned into huge, five pound balls of zucchini. Eeek!
So begins my search to use all the spherical zucchini, a search that zucchini growers know well.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

John & Joan's Wedding

John is my co-worker at school and he married the lovely Joan today. The wedding was at the home of Joan, who owns a blueberry field. It was a lovely occasion. Here, Matt picks some blueberries before the ceremony. I think that lady in the back is jealous of the blueberries.
Before the ceremony, there were some old-timey type singers who were quite good.
This sign set the theme.
John and Joan ready to take their vows.
Joan's daughter and her friend wrote a song for the occasion. It was incredibly beautiful, as were their voices together.
John's daughter sang a capella.
Afterward, we ate a lovely feast. Here are Jo and Julie, ready to dig in.
And here we are, with Matt looking the part of a 1950's newspaper advertisement model.
It was a lovely wedding.